Greetings, I am Angela “LemurKat” Oliver, one of the co-founders of the Christchurch Writer’s Guild, and I am a NaNo veteran. I have participated in NaNo (or similar endevours) six times since 2002, and have a 66% “success” rate – in that four times out of the six I achieved 50k or more.
Here I am pictured with an earlier proof copy of my 2010 NaNo novel, “Aroha’s Grand Adventure.” Whilst the story wound up around 46k, the indepth appendices and a short story pushed it over the requirements. “Aroha” was written in the aftermath of the disturbing-but-less-tragic September 4th earthquake in Christchurch, and over 400 aftershocks were widely felt in the city over the month of November.
I believe writing actually helped me through what was an otherwise very stressful time, and yes, there is an earthquake in the books.
My other NaNo novels have been less than successful.
For my first NaNo in 2002, I wrote a commissioned piece (I was given a storyline, characters and $$$ to write it) entitled “Long Odds” that concluded at just over 26k.
In 2003, I tried again, penning my post-apocalyptic Furry novel, “Scavengers of the Deadlands”, which despite being derivative of Harry Potter and ElfQuest is actually pretty jolly good. I achieved the wordcount, and went on to write a total of 95,000 words before running out of steam – about 5k from the end. I have promised myself to finish that story at some point in the not too distant future (and make it a little less derivative).
I then took a break for the next four years, concentrating more on my artwork (and discovering Artist Trading Cards), before trying again in 2007, with a reboot of my story “Quest for Lemuria”. Once again, it fell flat, at just over 20k.
2010 was a far more successful year, with “Aroha’s Grand Adventure” which I later went on to publish (yay for the free proof copy code), and in 2011 I participated in both Kiwiwriter’s SocNoc (Southern Cross Novel Challenge) and NaNo, writing parts one and two of my Epic Lemur Novel. Part one went okay, with much editting and re-writing, but after achieving the 50k for part two, I then went and removed half of it.
For 2012, I am planning a follow-up/parallel novel to “Aroha’s Grand Adventure,” using the kea, Tiriki, that features in those books.
So, how am I prepping for NaNo this year? Well, first and foremost, I am clearing myself of all other artistic obligations – getting all art trades out of the way, not committing to any swaps and also finishing up my entries for the two storyline competitions. November will be for concentrating on writing. It would have been nice to take time off work as well, but in previous times I have written while working full-time, plus I’ve run out of holiday leave!
I am also conceptualising. I am not good at taking notes, I prefer storing stuff in my brain – which works well for a while, but I tend to forget things if they are left too long. I have the basic plot-premise set out, a main character and an opening scene. I have not yet written that scene, of course, but I do know roughly how it will go. With writing, I find the hardest bit is the first sentence. If I have not got that sorted out, then I shall sit and stare at the blank screen for up to 30 mins.
This year I have a laptop. This means that I can – if needs must – write at work, and also allows me to attend more of the social gatherings. In previous years, I had considered going – but the idea of going out and not writing, or writing on paper, made it less than desirable. I am using Dropbox as the place to do the writing – which means I can access it from both my computers without shifting files back and forth.
When writing my NaNo novel – I get up earlier – setting my alarm to rouse me an hour earlier than I normally would. That means 5 am most week days. This worked fine in November, when the birds were singing early, but when I tried it for SocNoc in June the results were less than stellar. My goal is to write 1000 words before breakfast!
The most succesful daily wordcount I ever had was 5000 words. Not only was the story flowing, but the internet wasn’t working. This meant I could not pop into the forums, or check my facebook, or spend two hours researching what would happen if a weka ate a cigarette, or watching people “fishing” for wekas on youtube.
And don’t forget to make back-ups. I’ve heard of people having their laptops stolen – and thus losing their entire manuscript. Once again, Dropbox is useful here because you can access it from any computer, anywhere, with a password. However, I would recommend also saving it to your harddrive in case something goes wrong with Dropbox.
I blog every day whilst doing these Monthly Writing Challenges, so you can follow my progress over on: http://lemurkat.blogspot.com (although now I have a wordpress blog, it’s tempting to move it).